Styles and May turn it on in the TornadoHugh Styles and Adam May belied their relatively short time in the Tornado catamaran on the opening day of the Olympic regatta, scoring a second in race one and a fifth in race two, to be lying equal third overall with Chris Dickson and Glen Sowry of New Zealand.
The early leaders in the 16-boat fleet are hometown gold medal favourites Darren Bundock and John Forbes, who are tied with Austria's Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher. Both crews scored a win and a third on a course just inside Sydney Harbour Heads, where the faltering sea breeze eventually picked up to around 10 knots.
For Styles and May, who only started racing together a year ago, this was an excellent Olympic debut. "I think we knew we had it in our repertoire," said Styles at the British team shorebase afterwards, "but it's always nice to start a series with two results in the top-five which sets us up well for the rest of the week."
"I think we just picked our lanes well upwind and sailed pretty consistently," he added. "There were a number of opportunities on the first lap of both races to make losses and we avoided those and just kept our options open, especially in the second race when we pulled through from 10th at the first mark."
With the left-hand side of the track favoured in both races, good starts were at a premium. The British crew - the new boys in the Olympic fleet - were pleased with that part of their game and with their speed. "Our speed was good upwind and we had no problems downwind either," said Styles. "We compared well with the Aussies and we feel we have opportunities to push everyone in the fleet."
For the 26-year-old former European champion in Lasers (1997), the chance finally to race in the Olympics was a momentous occasion after the long build-up. "I was a little nervous and excited like at the opening ceremony," he said, "but mainly we were just really, really keen to get into the racing."
While Styles and May started their Games on the right foot, the same could not be said of Andy Beadsworth, Richard Sydenham and Barry Parkin, who had a disappointing first race in the Solings. While the breeze built nicely in the harbour, it never got going above a patchy five-to-six knots outside the Heads, where the star-studded Soling fleet waited three-and-a-half hours to get underway.
Eventually race officers went into the sequence in as little as three-to-five knots of breeze. An untidy slop made life even more difficult for the crews and all-in-all it was a far from ideal way to begin the Soling series. With the left-hand end favoured, most of the fleet clustered there and while some got away cleanly it was inevitable that others - including the British - would get buried.
Beadsworth was parked for perhaps 30 seconds before he managed to bring his boat to life and he did well to reach the weather mark in ninth position, leading the second group. It was after the first run to a newly-positioned leeward mark, which the Britons rounded in 11th place, that their race went off the rails.
The general wisdom in a sea breeze is to take the left-hand side of the beat, closer to the Heads and Manly beach where there is more pressure and less adverse current. Beadsworth and Parkin stuck to this view on the second beat and lost out badly, having failed to spot what race winner Roy Heiner of Holland noticed early on, that there was more breeze on the right.
While Beadsworth slipped to 14th and eventually finished one place better, Heiner ran away to win comfortably from Georgy Shayduko of Russia second and Rod Davis of New Zealand third. Heiner is one of the favourites for gold in this fleet and he sailed fast and smart in this race. After an even worse start than Beadsworth that saw him finally cross the line one-and-a-half minutes late, he picked the right route up the beat, climbing to eighth at the first mark and then taking the lead at the first leeward mark, from where he was never headed.
In the Men's Mistral windsurfers, Britain's Nick Dempsey did his chances of sneaking a surprise medal no good by being OCS in the first race, finishing 15th in the second and is now lying 30th overall. In the women's fleet, Christine Johnston was 26th in race one and ninth in race two and is 17th overall.